Today, USAToday and local media reported that a 16-year-old girl is being tried as an adult in the case of the murder of her 43-year-old boyfriend, who she killed "during sex" while her mother was in the other room. Missing from the story? Arizona's age of consent, which is 18. Everyone just kind of glossed over that.
The breathless, an incredibly gross report by the 12 NEWS BREAKING NEWS TEAM described 16-year-old Jessica Burlew as living a "sordid dark lifestyle of raw emotion" and self-harm, and mentioned that she'd be occupying the same jail that held other "murderers like Jodi Arias," the adult woman who stalked and murdered her ex boyfriend. The male news reporter went out of his way during a rundown of the "troubled teen" — she cut herself, she wrote sad lyrics and made YouTube videos of herself singing them. And she was having "consensual" sex with her goth 43-year-old boyfriend, Jason Ash before choking him to death with an extension cord.
According to Arizona law, Jessica was not having "consensual" sex. In fact, the only way that Jason Ash would not have been committing statutory rape in engaging in the allegedly "consensual" sex act would have been if he had no way of knowing Jessica's age, was legally married to Jessica, or was himself close in age to Jessica.
The story gets sadder, though, when Jessica's mother makes her cameo to imply strongly that she'd been aware of her daughter's sexual relationship for awhile and just hadn't cared enough to intervene. In fact, she'd been at the house earlier the day Ash died, but said she went to "take out the trash," and when she returned, her daughter led her to Ash's body.
I'm not saying that anyone should circle the wagons around a person who has allegedly committed a horrible crime, nor am I implying that Jessica Burlew didn't think she consented to the sex act with Ash, or that the murder was justified, but the way this story was reported was some flame broiled garbage. News organizations that serve as a primary source of information have an obligation to do the best they can to report the entirety of the truth, or at the very least to ask questions. The fact that this story was published on multiple platforms and ostensibly passed beneath the eyes of dozens of editors and writers without someone pointing out that hey, it sure seems like there was a lot of complicated stuff going on here, and maybe we should make a note of the fact that this KILLER TEEN's 43-year-old boyfriend was having sex with someone below the age of consent and her mom didn't care (???) is dismaying.